You’ve built websites you’re proud of, debugged countless lines of code and took coding classes in order to polish your programming chops. But there’s no finish line when it comes to developing your dev skills.
“No matter how experienced you are, there's always something new to learn,” says Emmy Cao, developer advocate at Wix Studio. “As you grow in your developer journey, you start to take on more ambitious projects that require you to level up your knowledge.” Plus, the industry changes fast. “It helps to stay ahead of these changes,” Cao adds.
While embarking on your journey to becoming a better programmer, it’s imperative you get comfortable asking for help when you need it. As software engineer and YouTube course creator Ania Kubow puts it: “don't be intimidated by others,” she says. “If you think someone is better than you at something, ask them questions.”
Even if you’re a senior dev working on your agency’s biggest projects, there’s always something to learn to collaborate more closely with the design team and improve your overall website development. Below, 7 ways to write the best code you’ve ever typed.
01. Use goal projects as your guide
“The most important thing a programmer can do to improve is to figure out their learning style,” says Thomas Jimenez, a developer advocate at Wix. “Some folks learn better from direct experience, so they prefer to follow along with tutorials, whereas others are more comfortable dissecting documentation.”
So, how do you discover what your learning style is? It helps to have a goal in place to anchor your efforts. “If you say, ‘okay I want to build a Reddit clone, or I want to build a timer for my eCommerce website, then everything you learn can be geared towards that end-result,” says Cassidy Williams, CTO at Contenda. Plus, having a goal forces you to stick with a problem long enough to solve it.
As an example, a solid goal project for agency developers looks like committing to learning a new programming language or framework within a set period of time to expand your capabilities (and what you’re then able to offer your clients as a service).
02. Embrace failure
“A lot of today’s leadership expect you to know everything right off the bat, which is obviously impossible,” says Cao. She adds that one of the most important things a programmer can do is work where there’s psychological safety. Making mistakes (and fixing them) is an inherent part of being a programmer, so it’s critical to find projects, teams and organizations that reward trying new things as opposed to reprimanding failed attempts.
“Every developer should find spaces where asking questions and getting constructive feedback is the norm,” she says. “If there isn’t an implicit sense of psychological safety, you won’t be able to stretch beyond your comfort zone because you’ll be afraid of messing up or losing your job.”
Of course, it takes two. The best way to create a sense of safety is to take ownership of mistakes and lead by example. When you do this, you set the tone for failing forward and overcoming errors together as a collective (which only serves to strengthen team chemistry and your own learnings as a result).
When clients are involved, there’s likely additional pressure to get things right. It’s always better to over communicate than assume you understand their needs and problems. Challenge your team’s assumptions by encouraging team members to frequently ask your clients clarifying questions.
Moreover, clue your clients into your work by sending out a weekly email of updates and takeaways. Clients appreciate transparency.
03. Join the club
“Joining communities should be an imperative for every programmer. Whether it’s going to college or joining a bootcamp or forum, learning is multiplied in social settings and struggling is multiplied when you go at it alone” says Jimenez.
Being part of a community can offer a behind-the-scenes look at how products are made and introduce you to unknowns you otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. Most of all, though, communities provide feedback loops, which help you pick up new programming skills.
Some solid places to start:
04. Take on pair programming
A quick refresher: Pair programming is a software development technique in which two programmers work together at a single workstation. One programmer is the driver, meaning they’re the one that writes the code, and the other programmer is the navigator, who reviews the code and offers feedback as it's being written. The two often swap places to give each developer a chance to code and reflect.
AI can also step in here. “I use Chat GPT all the time when I’m unsure if the code I’ve written is the best way to structure what I’m trying to do,” says Jimenez.
“Pair programming is scary for people at first because there's literally someone watching what you're doing,” says Cao. “Getting over that fear of messing up and looking dumb is its own challenge, but it’s the closest you can get to stepping into someone's head.”
05. Tap a robot
Speaking of artificial intelligence, Wix Studio features an AI assistant that helps devs ship code faster and learn in the process. You can get custom tailored scripts and troubleshoot at lightning speeds to make sure your code works the way it was intended. And for those especially eager to learn how to be a better programmer, Wix Studio’s AI explains its code suggestions so you can put it to use in the future.
On that note, Kubow says AI is best used as a tool, not a crutch. “Don’t rely on it too heavily because half the battle is solving it yourself,” she says.
06. Try new frameworks
“Since there isn’t any one-size-fits-all technology out there, the framework wars have become quite contentious,” says Jimenez. “Every use case has a lot of different platforms, so don’t be afraid to try new tools and frameworks when the recipe calls for it.”
At the end of the day, the best framework to use comes down to the problem that you're trying to solve, and the best tool for you to do it. “We've been seeing a lot of framework-driven development where people build very specifically towards React, Next.js, Laravel or Vue, and they get so comfortable in one framework that they forget the fundamentals and start living in a bubble,” says Williams.
She adds that you want to be able to build things without relying on a singular framework so that if, for whatever reason, your preferred framework falls by the wayside, you’re still employable. Before your next project, take a step back and ask yourself—and your team or community—to consider the best framework for the job. It might help you avoid racking up technical debt in the process.
07. Build cool stuff
“It's important to build things you’re passionate about because it encourages continual learning,” says Jiminez. Look for additional ways to get involved in your agency and work on side projects that help you learn.
“Not only will you feel good building things you genuinely want to see in the world, but you can also document your journey to help others within your agency or in the communities you joined,” says Jimenez.
Cao recommends finding cool projects, cloning them and then trying to change a little bit to see how it impacts the whole product. For Cao, those changes become micro-learnings, which help her decide what else she needs to learn.
The endless journey is worth it, not just in terms of the awesome stuff you can create, but in terms of your growth as a professional in a close-knit community. “When I was starting out, I literally didn't know a single developer. I just decided I wanted to get into coding, even though I didn’t know anything,” says Kubow. “I’m so glad I did. Learning to code changed the trajectory of my life.”